May 29, 2003


The "Nude Gang attack" entry here is now officially the funniest news report ever written. Alpini?

(from T. Blair)

Posted by BruceR at 05:16 PM


An airline hijacker armed with wooden stakes failed in his plan the other day.

It's the best argument I've seen for stake control yet. Especially those urban assault stakes.

(QUESTION: The passengers restrained the man with "plastic ties?" Like flexcuffs? Where'd they get those from, the hijacker on his day off in Row 8?)

Posted by BruceR at 05:05 PM


Good summary on Spinsanity on the Lynch affair and a couple other Iraqi rumours. Nothing I really disagree with... it's got Glenn in a huff, though.

If I had a quibble, it would be with Spinsanity's statement that there were "a few contradictory reports" after the first couple of days about Lynch's injuries. As we showed here, People, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and all the papers carrying the Associated Press stories on the subject would be among those "few." What would count as "more than a few," exactly? Papers on other planets?

PS: And excuse me, but if anything the early inaccurate reporting about Lynch was MORE potentially significant than anything in the BBC post-mortem, Glenn. It was a hot war, then... it's entirely possible that stories alleging the mistreatment or torture of Lynch, only a couple shades darker than those that were actually filed, could have led to all kinds of personal and national retaliatory consequences against the Iraqi people, or even Americans of Iraqi descent... the onus then on any responsible journalist at the time should have been to question everything, or potentially have a USS Maine-type incident on their consciences. All Kampfner ever risked doing by his negligence was providing fodder for bloggers.

Posted by BruceR at 01:15 PM


Actually, if you think about it, the closest historical comparator to what the French are proposing, a UN division to prop up the Kabila regime in the Congo, is actually the Crimean War of 1854, where the Western European powers stepped in militarily to prop up the "Sick Man of Europe," Ottoman Turkey. And we all know how well that turned out...

A letter in the Globe today has it backwards. "The U.S. made sure that promising and popular new leader, Patrice Lumumba, was imprisoned and murdered, and that its own puppet, Mobutu Sese Seko, was able, through military force, to succeed him."

Oh, you can blame the U.S. for all kinds of things, but not for Mobutu's rise. It was a lot more complex than that. The French and Belgian mining interests that really ran the country had their paid man, Moises Tshombe; the U.S. under JFK had their African proto-democrat, Cyril Adoula (sort of a Ngo Dinh Diem figure with little but American support to recommend him), and the people's favourite, Lumumba, danced with the Soviets throughout his brief career (largely because the mining interests HATED him). But it's fair to say he never really closed the deal either: he was really only elevated to Communist martyr status after his death. (Like Ho Chi Minh or Fidel Castro, there was apparently a point in the dynamic and charismatic Lumumba's early life where he could have gone either way, democrat or communist, but events conspired, as it did for the others, to push them over to the dark side. All his toying with Moscow accomplished however, as with those others, was to scare the crap out of the American state department and close off the doors of the West to him permanently.) The CIA had drawn up plans to kill Lumumba if necessary (I'm sure they had plans to kill just about any populist Third World leader if they had to), but they were never acted on... he was killed ultimately by European mercenaries, at the prompting of the mining interests and Tshombe. Not that Mobutu minded him going, mind you.

Mobutu was originally supported by no one. His big claim to a seat at the table was that he controlled the only marginally effective Congolese army units, as army chief of staff (he was a former sergeant-major, making him the leading military expert in Lumumba's independence movement... the Belgians had not allowed Congolese officers). He was also probably the smartest guy in the colony, which isn't saying much when you consider that up until independence in 1960, the Belgians had systematically denied the Congolese access to higher education. If you suddenly abandon a country where literally no one can read above an eighth-grade level or operate complex machinery, then you shouldn't be surprised if Lord of the Flies breaks out. At first Mobutu tried to work the situation Richelieu-style through his own front man, Kasavubu, but he would eventually tire of that and take a more direct role. After Lumumba was safely dead and the UN had crushed Tshombe and his European-sponsored mercenaries' attempts at secession for him, Mobutu then invited America and Europe's patsies, Adoula and Tshombe, back into a reconciliation triumvirate of sorts, thereby placating the west, and then hired back much of Tshombe's separatist merc army to fight what had become a full-fledged, Cuban-supported cannibal insurrection in the back country led by Laurent Kabila and Che Guevara. Mobutu then patiently and ruthlessly outmaneuvered Adoula and Tshombe, ditched Kasavubu, and ended up running the country for nearly 40 years (Tshombe was actually hunted down while in exile in Europe, a la Trotsky... the other two died naturally, first.)

You can blame the Americans for putting up with Mobutu after it was all over in the name of continued stability, sure. (They'd be blamed just as much, surely, if they'd moved to depose him.) But you can't blame them for his rise... they were played by this modern incarnation of Richard III just as much as he played everybody else. To call him a puppet is really to do the "Lion of Africa," one of the 20th century's truly evil men, an injustice.

Posted by BruceR at 09:55 AM